Oklahoma Senate leader says teacher pay raise chances "slim to n - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Oklahoma Senate leader says teacher pay raise chances "slim to none" this year

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - As the Oklahoma legislative session heads into its final weeks, the leader of the Oklahoma Senate said it is unlikely teachers will receive a pay raise in 2017.

Both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Oklahoma Senate have passed teacher pay raise bills this session, but Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz says neither bill was heard by the other side.

"Teacher pay has been something we've talked about a long time, certainly the state question that was on the ballot last November brought a lot of attention to it,” Schulz said. “In the senate, our position has always been we are dedicated to do a pay raise. It’s going to be implemented over time somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $6,000 in a two to three year period."

Senator Schulz said there is a $900 million shortfall in the budget this year which makes it nearly impossible to fund the pay raise this year.

"It'd be pretty silly to look at the common education budget and say we're going to cut you by two-percent but then give you a teacher pay raise,” Schulz said. “That just seems silly and foolish to us to cut them on one hand but give them money on the other."

Senator Schulz said he does think a teacher pay raise will happen in the future, but the only thing the legislature controls is the minimum salary that teachers receive.

"The majority of teachers in Oklahoma make above the minimum. So, if we go in and say we're going to increase the minimum by $1,000 or increase it by three-percent, take your pick. Then we give that money to the school districts there's no absolute guarantee that in that scenario the school district then says we'll increase all teachers by one thousand. I believe it will because there's enough public pressure for that to happen."

Senator Schulz said that scenario punishes all schools that don't receive state dollars. Ultimately, he doesn't think there's a great chance of any teacher pay raise happening in 2017.

"I'd say slim to none. Because of the $900 million hole, we've got to get that filled. I don't think we're going to get all the way to $900 million. I think we're going to see somewhere between a one to two to three to four percent cut across state agencies."

Senator Schulz said he does hope they are able to leave this year’s session with a framework in place for how they can fund teacher pay raises in the future. This year’s session ends on May 26th.

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